your career progresses, you develop skills which are respected and
Business etiquette is made up of significantly more important things than
knowing which fork to use at lunch with a client. Unfortunately, in the
perception of others, the devil is in the details. If you can’t be trusted
not to embarrass yourself in business and social situations, people tend
to equate a lack of etiquette with a lack of the care and self-control
necessary to be good at what you do. Etiquette is about presenting
yourself with the kind of polish that shows you can be taken seriously.
Etiquette is also about being comfortable around people and making them
comfortable around you!
Formerly perceived as soft skills, busy, result oriented professionals
have found that professional etiquette influences their success because
Differentiates them in a
Honours commitments to
quality and excellence.
Enables them to be
confident in a variety of settings with a variety of people from all
walks of life.
behaviours and develops admired conduct.
Most behaviour that is
perceived as disrespectful, discourteous or abrasive is unintentional, and
could have been avoided by practicing good manners or etiquette. We’ve
always found that most negative experiences with someone were
unintentional and easily repaired by keeping an open mind and maintaining
open, honest communication. Basic knowledge and practice of etiquette is a
valuable advantage, because in a lot of situations, a second chance may
not be possible or practical.
Business Etiquette ?More Than Just Eating With
The Right Fork
People are a key factor in your own and your business success. Many
potentially worthwhile and profitable alliances have been lost because of
an unintentional breach of manners.
There are many written and unwritten rules and guidelines for etiquette,
and it certainly behooves a businessperson to learn them. The caveat is
that there is no possible way to know all of them!
These guidelines have some difficult-to-navigate nuances, depending on the
company, the local culture and the requirements of the situation.
Possibilities to commit a faux pas are limitless and chances are, sooner
or later, you’ll make a mistake. When in doubt, stick to the basics.
The following are guidelines and tips that we’ve found helpful for dealing
with people in general, in work environments and in social situations.
It’s About People
Talk and visit with people. Don’t differentiate by position or standing
within the company. Secretaries and building maintenance folks have
tremendous power to help or hinder your career. Next time you need a
document prepared or a conference room arranged for a presentation, watch
how many people are involved with that process (you’ll probably be
surprised) and make it a point to meet them and show your appreciation.
Make it a point to arrive ten or fifteen minutes early and visit with
people that work near you. When you’re visiting another site, linger over
a cup of coffee and introduce yourself to people nearby. If you arrive
early for a meeting, introduce yourself to people nearby. If you arrive
early for a meeting, introduce yourself to the other participants. At
social occasions, use the circumstances of the event itself as an
icebreaker. After introducing yourself, ask how they know the host or how
they like the dip. Talk a little about yourself ?your hobbies, kids or
pets, just enough to get people to open up about theirs and get to know
you as a person.
Businesses can no longer function without telephones. Yet few of us
learned the proper way to place and answer calls. Telephone manners are
The author Fran Lebowitz said, “As a teenager you’re in the last stage of
your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you.?
Telephone calls are in intrusion into someone’s workday. At the beginning
of the call, ask if the person has a few minutes to talk to you. Forget
those old bromides about making small talk and building rapport before
getting to the point of your call. Know why you’re calling before you ever
dial, and get to the point. Wasting someone’s time is rude.
Identify yourself and speak clearly into the phone ?never chew gum, eat,
drink or smoke while using the telephone and tell them to basic nature of
your call. That way, you’ll be sure you’re getting the right person or
department and the person you’re trying to reach will be able to pull up
the appropriate information and help you more efficiently.
If you encounter someone’s voice mail, state your name, organisation, and
reason for calling and slowly give your telephone number. Many people will
leave a very good clear message and then quickly rattle off their phone
Voice mail is most efficient if you leave a concise but detailed message.
Many times the person receiving the call will be able to get the
information you need and leave that in their return call or message to
you. Use voice mail wisely and efficiently. Always have a concise,
professional greeting on your answering machine/voice mail.
Always return calls. Even if you don’t yet have an answer to the caller’s
question, call and explain what you’re doing to get the requested
information or direct them to the appropriate place to get it.
Answer the phone with the same enthusiasm or at least warmth, even if you
ARE being interrupted, the person on the other end doesn’t know that!
You don’t have to reply to obvious solicitations. If someone is calling to
sell you something, you can indicate that you are not interested and hang
up without losing too much time on it. However, you do need to be careful.
You may be receiving a call from an insurance or long distance company
that wants to hire you as a consultant! Be sure you know the nature of the
call before you (politely, of course) excuse yourself.
If you’re holding an important meeting in your office, don’t answer unless
you’re expecting an important call. Then apologise to those present for
the interruption, should you decide to pick up the phone.
Personalize the conversation. Many people act in electronic media
(including phone, phone mail and email) the way they act in their cars.
They feel since they’re not face to face with a person, it is perfectly
acceptable to be abrupt, crass or rude. We need to ensure that we make
best use of the advantages of these media without falling headfirst into
Never tie up someone’s line or waste his or her paper by sending an
unsolicited FAX unless it is urgent. And never, ever send a resume by FAX
unless it was requested. When you send a FAX always include a cover letter
stating the total number of pages, the date, who it is to, who it is from
and your telephone and fax number in case there are problems with the
Make the subject line specific. Think of the many messages you’ve received
with the generic subject line, “Hi?or “Just for you.?br>
Don’t forward messages with three pages of mail-to information before they
get to the content. In the message you forward, delete the extraneous
information such as all the “Memo to,?subject, address and date lines.
When replying to a question, copy only the question into your email, and
then provide your response. You needn’t hit reply automatically, but don’t
send a bare message that only reads, “Yes.?It’s too blunt and confuses
the reader. Address and sign your emails. Although this is included in the
To and From sections, remember that you’re communicating with a person and
not a computer!
And lastly, always respond to a real business message, whether it is to
invite you to a meeting, or to provide information you requested.
It’s also believed that the more serious the message, the less appropriate
email becomes as a medium. It has a reputation for informality. Also never
deliver bad news of any kind through email, like a letter of resignation
or serious complaints.
Avoid interruptions (of singular or group work sessions, meetings, phone
calls or even discussions) if at all possible. Most management folks feel
free to interrupt informal working sessions of subordinates, but need to
realize that they may be interrupting a brainstorming session that will
produce the company’s next big success. Always apologize if you must
interrupt a conversation, meeting or someone’s concentration on a task.
Quickly state the nature of what you need and show consideration for the
fact that you are interrupting valuable work or thought process.
... to be continued ?Radhika Warriar (NEE REGE)